Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad!

If you have been following me on Facebook, then you know that one of my “things” is periodically snapping pictures of my father. Usually, we’ll be at some restaurant about to eat. I don’t know why I started doing it, but I do. His reaction has run the gamut of “Put that phone down” to “I’m hiding my face!” Dad is just Dad.

Crash course on Dad: Born and raised in Hampton, VA in the midst of Jim Crow. It’s not a chapter in a history book for my father; he lived it. Schools were segregated. Blacks were barred from certain places and positions. Classmates of his were lynched. When he was an adult, he wasn’t allowed to vote. I could go on. Attended Hampton Institute (now University). Served in the U.S. Army. Attended Penn State for grad school. Worked for Owens-Illinois in Research and Development. Had eight children, two with severe disabilities. Married to mom for 42 years. A bunch of other stuff. It’s Dad.

Dad is one of the smartest people I know. I’m not just saying that just because he’s Dad, either. Even from a young age, he was crazy about science. One of my uncles told us this story about my young father figuring out how to make a small bomb and inadvertently exploding it in my aunt’s face. This guy is one of the few people I know who worked on computers back when they were the size of an entire building, required punch cards, and had MUCH less memory in them than you have on your I-Pod. He worked on the patent for the Coca Cola bottle! Oh yeah… and he has three Masters degrees… After he retired, this guy looked up everything there was to know about running and physiology and taught himself how to coach track/cross country and got results from his runners! There’s all sorts of stuff I could throw out there about him.

For the love of God, if you ever meet Dad, don’t fucking bullshit him. He can smell it a mile away. He’s the sort that will let you continue while giving you enough rope to hang yourself. If you’re going to argue with him - and all of his children have done plenty of it - just know your stuff. Don’t insult his intelligence because you are the one who is going to look like a fucking moron.

Dad is also one of the strongest people I know. From current health challenges to devastating life experiences, he has kept going even in the darkest of times. He’s got a list of health conditions and yet every day is up to mischief, arguing with all of us, teasing all the medical staff, and plotting on how to get solar panels on the roof. If anything comes up, he’s googling it.

There are a few bad habits of his, however. No, I’m not talking about alcohol or cigarettes or anything like that. I’m talking about his feedings the dogs off his dinner plate… or spying on me through Facebook… You know that Stevie Wonder song? The correct refrain is “I just called to say I’m hungry.” Back in my college days, Dad would call me at 2:30 AM because “Why weren’t you in your dorm at midnight?” There are times I’ve said to him “I’m 36. If I can’t find my way home by now, I’m going to be lost forever.”

I admit that I do joke and pick on Dad and - yes - argue with him. A lot. The reason is because I am so glad that he is in my life. I wouldn’t give up Dad for anything in the world, even the $100K Bosendorfer or Steinway pianos I’ve been lusting after for years. I will share my father, however.

Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving, Dad. We love you.

Oh… and we all forgot to buy the sweet potatoes. Sorry, Dad. All the stores are out. No sweet potato pie this year.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review of X-Men #7

Wait... Hold on... This blog is about my music and my career. What am I doing posting a review of a comic book on it?

Frankly... Why not? I've never done a review before and I need to get back in the habit of writing anyway, so I just decided to start going for it. Who needs focus, anyway?

So... I'm reviewing X-Men #7. The creative team is made of Brian Wood (writer), Terry Dodson (pencils), Rachel Dodson (inker), and Jason Keith (colorist).

A little background on me and Marvel Comics:

If you have connected with me on Twitter or Facebook, then you likely know that I like comic books, particularly the X-Men. There was a time in my younger days where I used to drop pretty close to $40 a month on the X-Men and their various satellite books. As bills have increased and my income decreased, I have since become increasingly selective. I’m not going to spend my limited money on what I feel is low to mid-level, called-in, editorially-dictated, big event-driven garbage. Age of Apocalypse, Operation: Zero Tolerance, Onslaught… I wasn’t a fan of all of them, but at least there was cohesion. There was a gripping story that made sense in all the levels.

Nothing that Marvel has put out in recent years compares even remotely. Straight out, their directions as of late have become increasingly contrived and focused far more toward the “plot” than the characters involved. “Hey… Let’s power up the Scarlet Witch to a cosmic level and have her remove a fucking gene from millions of people across multiple realities… and then have no current or prominent X-Men be affected in any great or permanent capacity and ignore all the depowered mutants formerly in their ranks.” “Let’s have the X-Men split off between Wolverine and Cyclops.” “Let’s have the Avengers and the X-Men fight over the avatar of the Phoenix for the first time EVER and make a shock with THE PHOENIX FIVE.”

Straight out, it’s all bullshit. The current direction and angle of the X-Books are pretty much centered around Cyclops and Wolverine’s played-to-death 30+-year-old Jean Grey squabble. It was old when Jean died the first time. It’s still old years after Grant Morrison killed her off. (Don’t get me started on the logistics of that.)

Brian Wood’s X-Men relaunch:

ANYWAY, when this new X-Men book by Brian Wood was announced, I actually got excited because as far as I could see it had nothing to do with Cyclops vs. Wolverine. Storm, Rogue, Psylocke, Shadowcat, Rachel Grey, and bringing Jubilee back with a subplot. A lot of potential, obviously. I figured with other writers in the works that there was no way Wood was going to be able to hold onto all of them, but he would hopefully be able to do quite a bit.

  • “Primer” was the first arc. I won’t rehash or review everything, but I was overall pleased with it. It was clearly a setup for the book, introducing the characters and the subplots. Here’s what you need to know about it: 
  • Sublime kicked his sister off-world billions of years ago. She’s back for revenge. She controls technology.
  • Jubilee kidnapped – er I mean – adopted an implanted orphan from Bulgaria. His name is Shogo.
  • Arkea infected Omega Sentinel/Karima Sharpandar.
  • Rachel and Sublime have chemistry… and she has no clue Sublime is the one that killed her mother Jean Grey.
  • Rachel and Storm are openly fighting each other for leadership.
On the tail of this solid introduction was a one-off and the Marvel event “Battle of the Atom,” which was billed at celebrating the X-Men's 50th Anniversary. Straight out, Battle of the Atom SUCKED. It was contrived like all the Marvel events are and I tried to give it a chance and honestly, I’m mad at myself for wasting the money on it. Just… Don’t touch that garbage.

NOW… onto X-Men #7. Yes, there be spoilers. They're semi-general here, but they get more detailed when I get into the likes/dislikes.

  • It begins by introducing out new Lady Deathstrike, Ana Cortes. (No relationship at all to X-Men foe Fabian Cortez.) It explains her background and shows how she becomes the new Lady Deathstrike. There are still things left open about why she wanted this. I figure that’s something we’ll find out later. She wants something from the X-Men.
  • Jubilee gets good news and her mood is ruined by Monet St. Croix’s timely arrival. If you haven’t read Generation X, they have history.
  • Monet meets Karima Sharpandar who has a new development. They bond quickly, which makes sense.
  • Lady Deathstrike starts to make her move and starts too soon. She didn’t count on M. She escapes because she’s not ready.
  • M and Karima tell the informal X-Men team what’s up. Storm asks M to hang around. More tension.
  • Bling reveals to Jubilee what happened.
  • Lady Deathstrike finds out something that interests her FAR more and her new partner is revealed on the last page.
What I liked:
  • I’m a fan of the new Lady Deathstrike already. Her setup did justice to the name and to the characters. Her look is awesome. Her being the same age as Jubilee also shows promise.
  • M joining is perfect, both in terms of balancing the departure of Kitty and Rogue, but also in the long-term tension with Jubilee. They were rivals in Generation X and both had fallen in love with Synch just before he was killed!
  • Karima Sharpandar’s new “status quo” is promising.
  • M’s instant clicking with Karima makes sense given what both of them had experienced.
  • Surprised by M using telekinesis. I don’t think that has been done since the introduction of her sisters back in the Phalanx Covenant. It was definitely the first time this M used it that I remember.
What I didn’t like:
  • The art. The Dodsons generally do good work, however the coloring and look were problematic in this issue. M, Karima, Lady Deathstrike, Typhoid Mary, and even Psylocke could all be mistaken for each other at different points in this book because they’re all women with long dark hair with extremely similar skin tones.
  • Jubilee acted too “teeny-boppery” overall. Fine… She’s 18. She has a child. She is finished with high school. (Thank God, seeing she’s been around since 1989.) I understand she’s young. She’s not that much younger than M or even Rachel! There hardly seemed to be any difference in the maturity level between her and the kids still in school. With the exception of that one scene where she’s acting “big sis” to Bling, she’s really coming off “junior X-Man” when she’s supposed to be their equal.
  • I’m totally not feeling the Rachel vs. Storm thing. Storm has been the leader of the X-Men for 30 years. I just don’t see the justification for Rachel challenging her for leadership.
  • Reiko hacked into the X-Men’s database and the X-Men don’t have a clue? Rogue was right. Beast is slipping. That shit should have been sealed up tight.
Other thoughts:
  • I’m really hoping Bling isn’t crushing on Jubilee. I was really liking Jubilee being the “Big Sis”/Mentor in previous issues, which is a capacity that none of the other X-Men are filling with the teen group at all. Bling should definitely be Shogo’s official baby-sitter.  (Just say no to Broo.)
  • I’m interested to see why Ana chose to go this particular route and why Wood chose her to be so young. Hot girl? Rich? Young? I don’t know why, but I’m kind of hoping the new Lady Deathstrike is the Sabertooth to M’s Wolverine.
  • The racial and ethnic diversity on the team is striking. Storm is African-American. (Before anyone corrects me, she was born in Harlem. Look it up.) Psylocke is a British woman wearing a Japanese body. Jubilee is Chinese-American. Karima Sharpandar is from India. Monet is Black French/Algerian. Rachel is a Ginger from the Future. As noted before, it was at times difficult to tell Karima, Monet, and Ana Cortes apart. It’s almost enough to make me forget that the creative staff of Marvel Comics is overwhelmingly White males.
  • Marvel really needs to tell the artists to cut it with the promotional artwork displaying Jubilee with her pyrotechnic powers if they have no intention of ever bringing them back. Personally, I’d rather they just give her mutant powers back.
Overall, I liked the book. It’s the only X-Book I’m getting right now, though I may pick up Peter David’s rebooted X-Factor when it comes out. Simply because it isn't completely centered around the Wolverine/Cyclops circle *cough*, I'm really hoping that it succeeds as all these subplots are built up and developed.

All the best! I'm curious to hear what others think of the issue.